With the best of intentions, the finest compliment one could pay is to suggest men would have been very proud of this effort, from either team!
A Leinster club senior camogie final that produced a high standard of play throughout, threw up a scorching finish that had both sets on fans on the edge of their seats as the teams shot 4-6 during a fireworks finish.
Kilkenny champions, Mullinavat looked a sure bet for the All-Ireland semi-final against the Connact champions in February when the fleet-footed Michelle Quilty was placed by the wonderful Julie Ann Malone to loft the ball over the bar in the 48th minute to open out a commanding 2-10 to 0-6 lead.
St Ibar’s Shelmalier (Wexford) looked a spent force. A point for the losers from Deirdre McMahon carried no great warning. But when stylist Katrina Parrock lashed a left handed strike from 12 metres to the net within 90 seconds Nowlan Park erupted. The wet and cold was forgotten as the action on the green rectangle consumed.
And boy, did that explosive action play tricks with the emotions. Ninety seconds further on the ball was in the Mullinavat net again, this time via Michelle Murphy (2-10 to 2-7).
The winners were under presssure, intense pressure, but they produced a piece of magic. Quilty won a ball and got it to the ever inventive Julie Ann Malone, who planked a near 20 metre hurley drilled pass into the out-stretched hand of Rebecca Haberlin in front of the city end goal. A slick palmed effort sent the green flying.
Enough, we thought! St Ibar’s were broken. No! The flag was barely in place at one end than Michelle Hearne fielded a drive from the gifted Kate Kelly at the other before bursting through for a goal. A point from Michelle Murphy left the force with the Slaneysiders, although two points down with as many minutes remaining (3-10 to 3-8).
Mullinavat roused themselves yet again. A high class finish that produced a brace of minors for that ‘go to girl’ when your team is in need, Julie Ann Malone and Michelle Quilty, after dancing between two defenders, got the Cats home despite the fact that Ibar’s added a pair of points in lost time.
“We really had to dig that out,” gushed relieved Mullinavat selector, Watty Phelan. “We seemed to be going well in the middle of the second half. St Ibar’s got on top and we had to hang on. We have every intention of driving on now. We have improved a lot since last year.
“It took us a while to get this, our first Leinster win. We might never get this opportunity again, so we have to make the best of it. These players have something. It is their time, and they have to make the best of the opportunity they have earned.”
Match star Julie Ann Malone, who has been showing a real cutting edge to her game since moving from wing to full-forward, said it was a great match to play in, and it was brilliant to win a Leinster title.
“We can’t wait for the All-Ireland semi-final after Christmas,” she added. “I thought we had it lost in the closing minutes, but thankfully we pulled through. Our team is the best in a long, long time. Hopefully we can go all the way. Winning a match like that has to boost the confidence.
“This is a huge chance for the club, and we have to make the best of it,” she added.
Mullinavat are some team! For me, Malone was stupendous as playmaker and finisher. At the most pressure filled times in the game she showed to most effect. A great sign! Elaine Aylward, Aine Kinsella, Leann Fennelly, Ciara Holden and the zippy Michelle Quilty were others who delighted with the vast array of skills and the tenacity they showed.
There was little or nothing between the teams for 20 minutes, when St Ibar’s showed 0-4 to 0-3 in front. Slowly the ’Vat gained the upper-hand territorily and a booted goal from Malone, after goalie Sandy Carr did well to save her initial shot in the 21st minute, clicked them into life.
A foul of Quilty saw her split the posts with a difficult free from a testing angle on the right before Rebecca Haberlin pointed after Ciara Holden put the ball in the danger zone (1-5 to 0-4). That scoring blast all happened within a three minute spell.
Mullinavat were flying. Malone was deprived of another goal by a super save from goalie Carr at the expense of a 45, which was pointed by Ciara Holden. On the half hour mark Malone made her mark again, this time netting after great approach work by Miriam Frisby and Leann Fennelly. Carr might have heard, but she didn’t see the bullet that passed her.
Half-time: Mullinavat 2-6, St Ibar’s 0-4.
The losers had the opening two scores of the new half through Shelly Doyle and Parrock, and ’Vat were grateful at the double to goalie Valerie Law who brought off vital stops from Shelly Doyle and an awkward, slow dropping high ball. They got back on track when Amy Butler and Elaine Aylward worked hard to steal possession off an opponent before delivering the ball up field for Malone to shoot a point (2-7 to 0-6).
Three more nice scores followed from Holden (free), Leann Fennelly and Quilty to drive the difference up to 2-10 to 0-6. We thought the game was over. Foolish! Sure the real fun was only beginning. Great stuff ladies. Thanks!
Player of the match - Julie Ann Malone.
Scorers: Mullinavat - Julie ann Malone (2-2); Rebecca Haberlin (1-2); Michelle Quilty (0-4, two frees); Ciara Holden (0-2, one free, one 45); Aine Kinsella, Leann Fennelly (0-1 each). St Ibar’s Shelmalier - Katrina Parrock (1-3); Michelle Murphy (1-1); Kate Kelly (0-4, two frees, two 45s’); Michelle Hearne (1-0); Shelly Doyle, Deirdre McMahon (0-1 each).
Mullinavat - Valerie Law, Sinead Phelan, Sinead Aylward, Joanne Quinn, Paula Butler (capt), Elaine Aylward, Claire Aylward, Aine Kinsella, Amy Butler, Miriam Frisby, Leann Fennelly, Ciara Holden, Michelle Quilty, Julie Ann Malone, Rebecca Haberlin. Subs - Shauna Kenneally, Ellen Waters, Nieve Walsh, Vivienne Law, Ciara Phelan, Eileen McEvoy, Lisa Ryan.
St Ibar’s Shelmalier - S. Carr, C. Donohoe (capt), L. Tector, M. Quill, F. Cullen, B. Curran, S. Daly, A. Lacey, K. Parrock, A.M. Kelly, K. Kelly, S. Doyle, D. McMahon, M. Hearne, M. Murphy. Subs - N. Walsh, H. O’Leary.
Referee - Alan Legrue (Kildare).